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Tope Folarin Wins the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing

Alert! Tope Folarin, of Nigeria, has won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, for his short story, “Miracle”, which originally appeared in Transition.

The writer receives the annual purse of £10 000. Read his winning story here.

The announcement was made, as per tradition, in faraway Oxford, England, at a gala supper at the Bodleian Library.

Folarin beat four other shortlistees to clutch the gong – four from Nigeria, one from Sierra Leone. For the complete 2013 shortlist, click here; and click here to read all the shortlisted stories.

The 2012 winner was Rotimi Babatunde of Nigeria, for his short story, “Bombay’s Republic“.

The prize’s vice president, Ben Okri, declined to comment on the preponderance of Nigerians on this year’s shortlist (4 out of 5):

But Okri did single out the late Chinua Achebe for especial praise:

Valiantly, shortlistee Elnathan John tweeted the proceedings from the Bodliean, right up until the final moment:

Earlier in the day, the shortlisted writers gathered at the BBC to talk about why they write:

From the official Caine Prize press release:

Tope Folarin wins fourteenth Caine Prize for African Writing

Nigeria’s Tope Folarin has won the 2013 Caine Prize for African Writing, described as Africa’s leading literary award, for his short story entitled ‘Miracle’ from Transition, Issue 109 (Bloomington, 2012).

The Chair of Judges, Gus Casely-Hayford, announced Tope Folarin as the winner of the £10,000 prize at a dinner held this evening (Monday, 8 July) at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

‘Miracle’ is a story set in Texas in an evangelical Nigerian church where the congregation has gathered to witness the healing powers of a blind pastor-prophet. Religion and the gullibility of those caught in the deceit that sometimes comes with faith rise to the surface as a young boy volunteers to be healed and begins to believe in miracles.

Gus Casely-Hayford praised the story, saying: “Tope Folarin’s ‘Miracle’ is another superb Caine Prize winner – a delightful and beautifully paced narrative, that is exquisitely observed and utterly compelling”.

Tope Folarin is the recipient of writing fellowships from the Institute for Policy Studies and Callaloo, and he serves on the board of the Hurston/Wright Foundation. Tope was educated at Morehouse College, and the University of Oxford, where he earned two Master’s degrees as a Rhodes Scholar. He lives and works in Washington, DC.

Before the winner was announced, prize patron Miles Morland (not the cocktail maker in London) announced a new scholarship for African writers, but details remain vague. We’ll report more as further information comes to light.

Elsewhere, Beneath the Lion’s Gaze author Maaza Mengiste – born in Ethiopia, now resident in the USA – mused on the question of the identity of “African” writers who self-identify with the continent but don’t live on it. As usual, the Caine Prize featured in the debate (thanks in advance to the Guardian for allowing us to quote at length):

The winner of the 2013 Caine prize for African writing will be announced on Monday. On the shortlist of five, three writers live in the US and at least one has US citizenship. The Caine prize, some have argued, should be only for “real” African writers. But who is to judge what makes a “real African”? It is almost impossible to apply a single identity to an entire racial or ethnic group, much less to an entire continent. As individuals, we are each comprised of a series of contradictions. We are not neatly constructed sets of qualities. At our best, we should defy simple categorisation. It is living with difficult choices and easy accommodations that makes us human and, if we’re lucky, keeps us interesting. It is from within contradictory existences that some of our greatest works of literature have been born. Why can’t it be the same for those who can trace memories, or a parent or two, to Africa?

But maybe the question about “African-ness” is legitimate. Maybe it’s as simple as asking someone at a dinner party where he or she lives. It could be uncomplicated curiosity that raises this question repeatedly, compounded by the fact that in the publishing industry, “African” literature has become marketable and is selling extremely well. Maybe it’s difficult to tell us apart if the question isn’t asked. Or maybe we, the new generation of writers hailing from many places but having various forms of connection to Africa, seem so “Un-African” on the stage at festivals that our very existence forces a reconsideration of the world we live in. It calls to mind the accusations of certain African American artists not being “black enough”. Maybe we are now too much at ease in the lives we’ve made for ourselves, in the places we’ve chosen of our own accord.

The question of what makes a real African writer seems intractable, like the legendary Gordian knot; in the comments below Mengiste’s piece, we’re partial to this from one xxxFred:

07 July 2013 9:32pm
“Don’t care where you come from, as long as you’re a black man, you’re an African”
Peter Tosh – African

Note: this does NOT mean that if you’re white you’re not African, you dig?

Congratulations to the 2013 Caine Prize winner, who surely qualifies as an African writer, and good night!


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Henrietta</a>
    July 9th, 2013 @08:54 #

    Congratulations to the winner!


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